A message from our CEO in response to COVID-19
You have all undoubtedly followed the state, national, and global news regarding the coronavirus pandemic. While we have been posting almost daily on social media regarding updated changes at BCHC as well as passing along community education, I wanted to take a step back to give you a broader perspective on how we are planning to serve our communities. First, I want to recognize that while this is a stressful situation in healthcare, we are fully aware of the economic, social, and psychological stress that this pandemic has created for all the communities we serve. From businesses forced to close to a parent of a kindergartener who may have had their first exciting year of school cut short, this has impacted our community now, and we know will have a lasting impact in the future. While BCHC is spending the vast majority of its time now to combat the spread of COVID-19 and plan for its treatment, we know we will have a role to play as a community leader when we get through this.
BCHC does run emergency drills; however, it would be disingenuous to suggest that we could ever be truly prepared out of the gate for a crisis like this. Know, though, that our team has been working incredibly quick making changes to serve our community. In our first week, BCHC implemented many measures to help control the spread by dramatically reducing the number of individuals coming into our organization by rescheduling visits for individuals who may be at high risk for health issues if they contract COVID-19, canceling elective surgeries, restricting door access, and screening visitors, patients, and employees upon entry. We have also implemented an outside testing site to reduce exposure to our staff and other individuals visiting BCHC. We are happy to report that this testing has been going very well, using all appropriate precautions.
To address questions and concerns community members may have regarding COVID-19, we have established a call center at BCHC. This call center will be opened on 3/25/20 and will be staffed 7 days a week from 8am-8pm by BCHC nurses under provider supervision. Please call 319-332-0894 to speak with someone at the BCHC COVID-19 Call Center.
BCHC also has taken the need to protect our residents in Lexington Estate and the home owners at Oak View incredibly serious. Experiences in other states have shown that COVID-19 outbreaks in these environments can have some devastating consequences. Decisions made to protect our residents are necessary, but are difficult as the removal of some social interactions have its own negative consequences. We have dedicated champions within our activity department in Lexington Estate spending time one-on-one with residents and helping set up virtual interactions with family. We are also working on different locations to handle any end of life situations to be able to allow more visitors without exposing our other residents additionally.
On the hospital and clinic side, BCHC has another busy week of planning. Our priorities have included the establishment of a call center for triage purposes to centralize questions and create consistency in who is answering questions for individuals concerned about COVID-19 related symptoms. We are also reviewing the ability to connect with our primary care patients at all three locations through telephone visits or video chat telehealth features.
Finally, BCHC has begun planning to create a specialized clinic to centralize patients with COVID symptoms that need non-emergent care to reduce exposure to patients coming in for well-exams and other acute issues to our primary care offices. Regarding our facilities, our exceptional maintenance team has already been able to convert multiple areas within ER, urgent care, and inpatient unit into negative pressure rooms, which sucks air out of the room continuously to reduce transmission. Finally, as we have seen in other countries and in other states, we are planning for an increase in hospitalized patients as a result of COVID-19. As such, BCHC has begun to prepare for additional inpatients both with re-configuring rooms as well as cross training staff whose areas have been reduced or closed recently. We have been working with our partners at UniytPoint Health to begin to determine patients that we will still transfer to them and patients that we may take from them in transfer to free up their units to care for the critically ill. We are not in this alone and have been having a daily call with leaders at the hospitals in Manchester, Grundy Center, Sumner, Waverly, and Waterloo to work together and share what we are doing, and plan for how we can help one another.
While we plan for the worst, we still hope for the best. Much is still not yet known about COVID-19, the timing of treatments, its full transmission pattern, the number of positive cases truly out there, etc. I certainly hope that we will not need to activate all of these plans, but know that we will be ready if we do. BCHC has also experienced terrific success in the past allowing us to build our cash reserves and weather the economic impacts of this so we will see our way through this and continue as a strong leader in our community post. We will continue to update you through our social media and weekly newspaper press releases. A lot changes quickly so please follow “Buchanan County Health Center” on Facebook, or visit BCHealth.org/covid19. Also, ensure you continue to get your information from trusted sources such as the Iowa Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control.
As a final note, we want to thank our partners at Public Health, EMA, UnityPoint Health and our broader healthcare industry. These relationships are critical to coordinating our response.
-Steve Slessor, CEO